Starring: Isaac Hempstead Wright, Ben Kingsley, Elle Fanning
Director: Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi
Running Time: 97 mins
The Boxtrolls is an American film about a boy who lives with a community of underground creatures called boxtrolls, who are hunted relentlessly by a selfish man from above ground.
Laika’s incredible stop-motion has to be seen to be believed. With immense imagination and wonderful artistry, The Boxtrolls is a scarcely believable stop-motion film, with such impressive use of the technique that it looks as modern as any CGI animation, but has the added benefit of the tactile presence of real props and sets.
Beyond the animation, it’s fair to say that the film’s story is lacking in the same depth and emotional resonance of some of Laika’s best films. However, with a strong imagination, great voice performances and a fun, if not simplistic story, it’s an undeniably enjoyable watch all the same.
And after all, The Boxtrolls isn’t meant to be some cinematic masterpiece, it’s a family movie that’s there to entertain everybody, something it does rather well throughout. It may not be as distinct as Coraline or as bold as Kubo And The Two Strings, but it’s a movie that made me laugh and smile throughout.
There’s a lot to love about this movie, especially the animation. As far as stop-motion goes, this has to be one of the most impressive movies ever made with the technique. The detail of the characters and sets, the fluidity of their movement, and the dynamism of everything on screen is incredible, and I can only imagine how much effort went into making it work so well.
Filled with passion for the medium, the stop-motion works an absolute treat right from the off, proving the endearing icing on the cake for an already lovely movie. If this were an entirely computer-animated movie, I think that the Boxtrolls would never have the same charm, and the film’s gorgeous sets would never stand out quite so much.
I wouldn’t call The Boxtrolls as ‘gorgeous’ as a film like Kubo or Missing Link, simply because it isn’t trying to portray immense, epic landscapes. But it’s Laika’s most impressively detailed movie, and it’s an absolute joy to get drawn into this fantasy world that’s filled with so much wherever you look.
As well as its visuals, this film is full of great humour and a vibrant, fun-loving imagination. It’s a much more light-hearted story than most of Laika’s other works, but it makes for a fun adventure with lots of laughs and moments to make you smile.
As I said, The Boxtrolls has very little of the emotional resonance of the likes of Coraline, and it struggles to get any sort of message or deeper ideas across beyond its central adventure story, meaning it’s relatively weak in comparison to Laika’s very best.
But one more area in which this film excels is its voice performances. Isaac Hempstead Wright and Elle Fanning are very likable in the lead roles, but Ben Kingsley is spectacular as the villainous Archibald Snatcher, and easily owns every single scene he appears in.
Couple that with great character design by Laika, and you have a film where all of these stop-motion personalities really pop on screen.
Overall, I liked The Boxtrolls, even if it is a little more simplistic than we know Laika are capable of. Its stop-motion is spectacular, it’s full of great humour, brilliant imagination and fantastic voice performances, making a simple adventure story an undeniably enjoyable watch, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.4.